Distinguished Women of Past and Present


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(Marie) Gertrude Rand

From: United States: New York
Fields: Invention, Psychology
Key Words/Phrases: research on vision and lighting, inventor
(Marie) Gertrude Rand was the first woman to become a fellow of the Illuminating Engineering Society of North America. This society is a technical association whose members come from different disciplines of science and industry dealing with many aspects of illumination.

Rand was born October 29, 1886 in Brooklyn, New York, U.S.A. In 1908, she graduated from Cornell University in Ithaca, New York with an A.B. degree in experimental psychology. Then, in 1911, she received her A.M. and Ph.D. degrees in psychology from Bryn Mawr College in Bryn Mawr, Pennsylvania. She remained at Bryn Mawr until 1927 doing research and teaching. In 1918, she married Clarence Ferree and together they began researching the effect of illumination on color perception. From 1924 to 1927, she also served on the committee on industrial lighting of the National Research Council.

In 1928, she and her husband accepted positions at the Wilmer Ophtalmological Institute of Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine in Baltimore, Maryland. During her stay there, Rand held positions of associate professor of research ophtalmology, associate professor of physiological optics and associate director of the research laboratory in physiological optics. They remained at Johns Hopkins until Clarence's death in 1943.

One of the projects they were working on while at Johns Hopkins was the lighting of the Holland Tunnel under the Hudson River connecting New York City and Jersey City, New Jersey. Another was developing standards of visual health and acuity for airplane pilots and ship lookouts during Warld War II. They held numerous patents for lighting devices and instruments.

From 1943 until her retirement in 1957, Rand was a research associate at the Knapp Foundation of the College of Physicians and Surgeons at Columbia University in New York, New York. There she did research on detection and assessment of color blindness. She became member of the Illuminating Engineering Society of America in 1952, during her tenure at Columbia University. In 1963, she was awarded the society's Gold Medal. Rand also won the Edgar D. Tillyer Medal of the Optical Society of America in 1959. She was the first woman to do so. (Marie) Gertrude Rand died June 30, 1970 in Stony Brook, New York.

Contributed by Danuta Bois, 1996.

1. The Book of Women's Firsts: Breakthrough Achievements of Almost 1,000 American Women by Phyllis J. Read and Bernard L. Witlieb, Random House, 1992


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